The Woman Warrior

by: Maxine Hong Kingston

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

"You must not tell anyone," my mother said, "what I am about to tell you. In China your father had a sister who killed herself. She jumped into the family well. We say that your father has all brothers because it is as if she had never been born."

The opening words of The Woman Warrior set the tone for much of the rest of the memoir. Note that the words belong to Brave Orchid and not to Kingston herself; much of the memoir is either directly or indirectly dominated by Brave Orchid's talk-stories, and it is up to Kingston to make sense of them. It is especially notable and ironic that the memoir begins with the phrase "You must not tell anyone." Kingston's struggle in "No-Name Woman" and in the memoir as a whole is to write about that which is never said: her unnamed dead aunt, the atrocities in her mother's Chinese village, and another aunt, Moon Orchid, who is unable to adapt to life in America. Kingston's struggle is also about finding a voice, as both a Chinese-American and a woman, after she has been silenced all her life. Writing a memoir therefore becomes a rebellion of sorts, from the first sentence—she is in fact telling everyone. In writing her memoir, Kingston displays a willingness to break the silence and asserts power over those who have held her back.